Hero the Escape
Chapter 8: B-Rank. and More Stupidity
Copyright© 2019 by Shaddoth
Those weeks, I took care of the cooking and food gathering for my new students. Though, I did take a different apprentice with me each day when I gathered or hunted food giving lessons on the local plants, which were edible, which to avoid and which had medicinal attributes. The six of us also constructed a small wooden dwelling with the material that I acquired from the forest. I did most of the work, preferring the girls to get in the habit of practicing my unorthodox training.
That and none of them had any skills useful in assisting the building of their new home, at this point in their training.
The morning of the seventeenth day of their studies, during breakfast, I informed the quintet that I needed to go to town and should be back that evening. “Keep practicing. I’m happy that everyone is starting to improve.” Individually, I encouraged each, during the early morning breakfast before leaving for Ebony City.
I was a bit worried, the only ones talking to each other at night, were the rogue and the scribe girl. The rest kept to themselves or in the case of the second mage fell asleep exhausted right away every night after being released from her lessons, not the rest lasted much longer. They were all worked from sunup to sundown and beyond, exploring their limits.
The first stop in Ebony City was the Hall of Justice to see Justiciar Dana. Dana wasn’t there. She had left for the capitol two days ago according to the replacement secretary; a much older formal woman, who didn’t even inquire of my reason for asking or my presence there.
Dana being summoned away didn’t surprise me. But her personal secretary also going along, set off alarms, very strong ones. Continuity and familiarity in the absence of power was necessary. Since Dana’s secretary knew most of the Justiciar’s dealings and cases, having her here would be essential for stability of the system. Both being absent tingled my Politics’ sense. Something was amiss, very amiss.
Polus’s shop was also closed. A young merchant closed early in the morning? *Sigh... He even knew that I planned on arriving this morning. Even more amiss ... the watchers by his shop that ran off at my knocking on my friend’s door cemented my concerns to my mind. I had seen similar situations develop too often, for me to not know what it portended.
I changed into my robe and Warstaff, from the casual leathers I had initially wore, in an unremarked alley on the route to the Adventurer’s Guild, then entered to a full guild eagerly awaiting an applicant to test for B-Rank.
“You’ve arrived, Applicant. The Test is prepared. If you fail, you may not retest for one year.” Opened Guildmaster Mari formally. It was a phrase I said more than once myself. The higher the Rank that one applied for the longer one needed to wait between attempts.
Paying the fee to the receptionist, “I am prepared Guildmaster.” I deliberately left out the last part of ‘May the Gods watch over us.’
Guildmaster Mari ignored my lapse as if it was expected. Leading the guild en masse outside to a large training ground surrounded by a steep hill where the audience sat. A single large sealed cage on the opposite side of the exercise field from which I entered held a fiery red, six legged creature. The designated seating area filled quickly with boisterous Guild members and few obvious non adventurers, most in attendance were already seated and waiting for my arrival. I did see Brenda in the front row next to some older adventurers. She placed bets with those around her, laughing. As always, watching adventurers testing for the higher Ranks was a reason to party for everyone in the guild.
“Since you are a combat type Applicant, your trial will be a ‘Combat versus Beast’. In order to pass to B Rank you must kill the beast in three minutes. Are you prepared?” Shouted the Guildmaster, so the audience could also hear, who responded with a chorus of hollering and jeering from the stands in anticipation of a good fight.
I did a quick chant, enchanting my Warstaff with lightning followed by water, followed by an even longer chant merging the lightning and water. The deep blue light from the two elements merging, flared and vanished from normal human sight. I knew that the quarter meter, now invisible blade was still there since the spell lightly drained my mana. The crowd ‘ooh’ed at the light show. All except for a few. The Guildmaster’s face stilled and a few of the older assorted mages looked uneasy.
“Please begin, Guildmaster Mari. I await.” I formally stated.
Her paled face worried about what I had planned but called out, “Release the Beast. May the Gods have mercy on our souls.” The last bit uttered by her, I didn’t remember being part of the ritual.
A two meter tall, sixteen meter long Fire Salamander charged out of the grate, enraged by the crowd noise and eager for its freedom, paused to seek out a target. I shouted at the Beast, whereupon it charged me with menace. Unfortunately for it, I had had enough of this Empire’s stupidity and took out my aggravations on the poor monster.
I ducked under the outstretched fiery claw and sliced its head clean off with the Fusion blade at the end of my staff. The crowd of a hundred plus ceased their mocking chant, shocked silent. I stabbed the end into the stones causing the granite to boil, bowed to the Guildmaster and to the Guild. “Thank you, fellow Adventurers for your support.” The last ritual phrase ended the test followed by a ‘Pass’ shouted from the crowd. I pulled out my Plaque and showed the Blue color to the audience proving my B-Rank acceptance by the God of Adventure.
The silly sod.
I raised my hand for quiet. The audience complied slowly after regaining their initial shock, who had begun speaking amongst themselves, while Guildmaster Mari made her way to me with a foreboding expression.
“Brenda. Thank you for your friendship. May I ask why you and all the mages in the audience has a Blood Rune on their spine? Why would you willingly have a Rune that restricts your mana and magical abilities? With that Rune in place, it will be impossible for you to achieve Master level.”
“Honestly, I don’t see any of the warriors, priests or rogues with one, just the mages?” Is this some sort of tradition?” The audience erupted. Mari faltered and mouthed ‘why’ to me.
‘Blood Rune’ flowed through the audience, until a full plate warrior with a sunburst on his shield jumped in the arena and charged me calling out ‘blasphemer’ with his sword drawn.
He quickly lost his sword arm followed by a splitting of his shield and most of his left lower arm. The fusion seared his limbs cauterizing the bleeding but even after falling on his face he still tried to get up and come after me. I kicked the paladin of the sun god in the head, knocking him out.
The audience shocked again quieted by the sudden attack and my equally quick decimation of the B-Ranked holy warrior. Quieting much slower this time. They all had heard the Paladin’s words. Brenda lifted her tunic, unsuccessfully trying to see the base of her own spine where the tattoo was located. “This is a blood rune? It can’t be. Even my Plaque says it’s Luna’s Blessing!”
I amplified my words with wind. “A blessing for whom? You or her priests? If it were a real blessing, your guild given Plaque would provide an explanation of its benefits. Not even your plaque gives an explanation on what that ‘blessing’ is. Does it?”
There was no response from the assembled Adventurers. “I do not know who put them there, but where I am from, that particular Blood Rune is called a Restrictor. Twenty of every hundred mana is bound by it. It would be the same as that warrior next to you being able to lift twenty kg less. Forever.”
Twenty circulated through the stands. Most adventurers were warriors or rogues. Mages and priests were rare.
“Can you Prove this?” Accused an older mage directly behind Brenda? Followed by a chorus that ended up with almost everyone agreeing with the man’s question.
“I can, with your permission. Do I have it?” ‘Yes!’ Screamed the audience. “Guildmaster, do I have your permission?” She had no choice, she knew it and I knew it, and ended up giving permission for the demonstration, even though she knew it would not end well.
“I need a volunteer. Not Brenda, since I know her and the results could be contested.” I called out with my amplified voice.
‘Me’, volunteered the same bald older mage behind Brenda. Proving his sincerity, he jumped down. “Take off your tunic please.” I said to the man.
“I will cast Truesight and Amplification to show you what I see. The rest is up to you.” I drew a circle with the fusion blade at the end of my staff, inscribing the three runes of seeing equidistant from each other on the circle’s edge. Taking about three minutes while the silent crowd restlessly observed.
“Once in the circle I need you to take a knife or dagger and cut yourself and wipe the blood on the Rune. This will hurt a great deal but please persevere.” Without comment he followed my directions.
As soon as the blood touched the rune he screamed and all hundred and some of the audience came down for a closer look. Every one of them could see the Blessing’s tendrils reach into his body and witnessed the rune’s shadowy tentacles suck strength from him while crawling up his spine. It pulsed in sync with the mage’s own heartbeat. The volunteer mage soon dropped to his knees crying in pain silently. The crowd pushed forward to see. Even the priests. It was even more telling that no one dared to heal my volunteer.
Guildmaster Mari stared at me in fear and horror. Not of me, but fear of the consequences.
“Ser Mage, do you want me to remove this?” He painfully screamed out ‘YES!’. I did. The rune fell to the ground behind him squirming, the tendrils slowly died. The crowd watched in horror as the blood soaked black tentacled, Blood Rune, turned into a pool of blood shortly after coming detached. He panted a heartfelt ‘Thanks’ while on all fours recovering from the pain.
“Looking at Mari and the Paladin. It looks like I won’t be welcome back here any time soon. Take care.”
“Wait, that spell...”
I withdrew four scrolls from my inventory and tossed them to the mage kneeling next to me trying to recover his strength. “It’s a fourth circle spell, you have permission to copy and distribute.” and left the yard. Or at least I tried to.
Mari intercepted me by the forearm at the exit. “Why”, was all she could say.
“How many attacks on me and my friends did you expect me to take quietly, before I acted?” I responded with no sympathy.
“This will cause a war.”
“Maybe you all will leave me alone, while you fight your little war. I did give plenty of warnings, didn’t I?”
“All those deaths will be on your head, then.” She tried to blame me.